The week’s most astounding developments from the neobiological frontier.

September 16, 2021

Moving beyond fitness and diet apps to longevity apps

Newcomer to the health app market, the U.K. based company Humanity made its debut this week in the Apple App store. Their app gamifies longevity by collecting your movement, mindfulness, recovery, and other metrics calculated by your devices, be they phones, watches, Ouras, WHOOPs, Lilys, Fitbits, Withings, or others, and then calculates your “H-score,” which promises to correlate with your rate of aging. Want to up your score, and by extension slow your aging? It may mean you need to meditate rather than do another spin class. Using an API from Gero AI that calculates health risk based on digital biomarkers, and longitudinal data from the UK Biobank, Humanity will build their own dataset over time that could lead to increasingly accurate biological aging clocks. It’s still up to you to change your behaviors though.

Editor’s note: proto.life founder Jane Metcalfe is an investor in and advisor to Humanity.

Racial inequalities in U.S. life expectancy fall—yet still persist

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts examines trends in mortality between Black and white Americans from 1990–2018 for different age groups from rich and poor counties in the United States. It found that while racial gaps in mortality fell by 48.9 percent between 1990–2018—driven by better cancer detection and treatment, less homicide, fewer HIV/AIDS deaths, and better prenatal and childhood care—racial and income inequalities in life expectancy continue to persist. And comparing U.S. mortality with that of six prosperous European countries suggests it has not fallen as much as it could for all Americans, both Black and white and rich and poor. NBER

New measures of physiological response to shared experience

Your heart and brain patterns fluctuate throughout the day according to individual experiences, but a number of experiments in recent years have shown that shared experiences can also affect those patterns—and in a collective way. Watching an emotional film with lots of other people can coordinate your heart rate with theirs, for instance, and now researchers at Inserm in Paris and City College of New York are suggesting that effect is an individual one as well: Your heart rhythm coordinates with your theater neighbor because you are both consciously processing the same narrative. They showed experimentally that heart rate synchronization can occur even when people are watching emotionally flat infomercials, and they suggest that heart rate synchronization may be a simple way to assess conscious states in people who are unresponsive. Cell Reports

Could improving the fidelity of protein synthesis extend life?

A study by researchers at University College London and Imperial College London this week has demonstrated the anti-aging potential of reducing errors in protein synthesis—a final step of gene expression where mRNA transcripts are translated into functional proteins within living cells. Focusing on a key piece of molecular machinery involved in this process called RPS23, which is found almost universally in all life on Earth, they found a rare, mutant form of the molecule taken from oddball extremophiles known as hyperthermophilic archaea, which live in blisteringly hot and acidic environments. The oddball form of RPS23 is hyper accurate, and when introduced into yeast, worms, and flies, it dramatically improved the fidelity of protein synthesis in those organisms and extended their lives. Their work also suggests drugs that do the same thing could have a similar effect on longevity. Cell Metabolism

China bellies up to the synthetic pork bar

A Chinese startup company called CellX recently offered samples of dishes made with its pork product for investors to try. Derived from black pigs native to China, the cultured meat promises a disease-free and more environmentally sustainable source of protein, and the company speculates its price will be on par with traditional pig meat within four years. Market research in China also indicates a strong public interest in trying the new meat, which bodes well for sales in a country that consumes about a third of the world’s pork annually and constitutes the single largest market for pork worldwide. What we want to know is: How does it taste? Vegconomist

Genetic components of extreme human longevity

Many of the genetic pathways of aging have already been uncovered in animals like mice, nematode worms, and drosophila flies, including key genetic variants that confer longevity in those animals. The lifespan of worms can be extended tenfold by mutating certain genes, for instance. Less clear is what role those same genetic paths play in human longevity. Examining genomes of 515 centenarians of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found the same longevity-associated signaling pathways seen in animals at play in humans, but they also found a number of rare variants of other genes, suggesting that the interaction of these rare variants with common longevity pathways accounts for the genetics of extreme human longevity—at least in part. Nature Aging